If you haven’t read The Evolution of Rap Part I, it basically describes the origins of rap up until the late 1980’s where rap became more politically charged with groups like Public Enemy. Much of rap from where we left off in the last post is rap going into two directions, one a new subgenere of gangsta rap and two rap begins its journey to making it to the mainstream audiences. The subject matter of rap also starts to shift over to the struggles of living in the inner city. I have decided to split up this time period into two separate post due to how I realized just how much this period covers as far as rap.
The first group that will be discussed that follows under the gangsta rap genre is N.W.A. consisting mainly of Dr. Dre, Eazy E, Ice Cube, DJ Yella, MC Ren, and for a while in the beginning Arabian Price. However, the first five in that list are the most popular and synonymous known for being in N.W.A. The music of N.W.A. was heavy on verses, as is typical with rap groups, as usually every member contributes to the song. This group started and was based in the city of Compton, California helping to get the West Coast rap game started and strong. Their debut album called Straight out of Compton released in 1988 featured some of their most popular songs like Straight out of Compton, **** tha Police, and Express Yourself. In Straight out of Compton, they not only introduce themselves to their audience in a dynamic, rhyme spitting way but they talk about their own struggles growing up, which will become a popular subject in verses to come. Their most controversial track, **** tha Police, they discuss police brutality, discrimination of minorities, and racial profiling by authorities. This was in response to claims of police brutality by LAPD of minorities which would later come to national attention with the beating of Rodney King in 1991. N.W.A.’s controversial status to mainstream America stemmed from their use of profanity and due to the fact that they talked about violent subjects based on what was going on in the inner city or from what was going on at the time.
Arguably N.W.A.’s most successful member, Dr. Dre started his solo career in 1991 after leaving N.W.A. and helped to find Death Row Records which would be a major player of rap during the 90’s. Death Row records was created by Dr. Dre and Suge Knight, helping to find talents like Snoop Dogg and 2Pac. Dr. Dre on his first debut The Chronic featured Snoop Dogg on the track Nothing but a G Thang and Dre later helped to produce his first album. Death Row records was a major player in gangsta rap and the whole West Coast versus East Coast dispute that will later be discussed. However, now we will shift over to the birth place of rap, the East Coast.
One of the most prominent rap groups on the East Coast was the famous Wu-Tang Clan founded in 1992. It was composed of RZA, GZA, U-God, Method Man, Raekwon, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Ghostface Killah, Masta Killa, and unofficially Cappadonna. They were from New York and were heavily influenced by martial arts movies on their debut album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), influenced by the movie Return to the 36 Chambers. Wu-Tang Clan’s first album featured hit songs like C.R.E.A.M., Bring Da Ruckus, and Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nothin ta **** Wit. Their masterful blend of instrumentals, martial art sound samples, and thier hard hitting verses captivated the rap scene. Up until this point, rap was dominated by the West with artists like Ice Cube, N.W.A., and Snoop Dogg. This landmark album helped to shift the attention from the West to the East for a while as they continued to dominate. They would later on create Wu-Tang Forever which was their second albm in 1997.